The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Quick update

Remember how I mentioned packing for two out of the three climates I expected to encounter on this trip? I should note that I expected London to be warmer than Chicago. I also expected that I would only be outside in Chicago traveling from the O'Hare tram to my car, and my car to my apartment.

I'm debating finding a wollens store and buying a good, heavy, Scottish sweater.

Our next residency lets me do the same thing only moreso, when I get to go from Chicago to Delhi, India, at the end of January. At least I'll have a heavy coat, gloves, and a hat with me on the trip. One of my classmates mentioned how cold Delhi gets in winter, but I think she meant "relative to summer" and not "relative to what anyone else would consider cold."

This isn't a complaint, of course. In Chicago, if you complain about any temperature warmer than, say, -20°C, you're just whining. So I'm not complaining. I'm just acknowledging that I'm dressed inappropriately for the weather.

Bonus photo from half an hour ago. I'm definitely not in Dubai anymore:

In transit

I've stopped in London for a day and a half to get my bearings and ease the transition back to real life. Also because it was less expensive than changing my return flight to the U.S. or staying one more night in Dubai.

Some observations:

  • This isn't your granddad's British Airways. The flight from Dubai landed early, and the flight's bags got to the carousel before the passengers. Yes, you say, because British immigration takes forever. No! I say, because from the plane stopping at the gate (in their spanking-new Terminal 5) to baggage claim took me 20 minutes. You can't even get from the gate to immigration at O'Hare Terminal 5 that fast.
  • While walking around South Kensington last night, I heard a weird snapping sound across the street from me. It turned out a fox was trying to remove a windshield wiper from a car. I must have spooked it because it jumped off the car and scooted into a nearby shrubbery when I looked at it. South Kensington is right smack in London's Zone 1—equivalent (in many ways) to Lincoln Park in Chicago, or the West Village in New York. You don't expect to see foxes in dense residential neighborhoods just like you don't expect to find coyotes in the drink cooler at a downtown Chicago Quizno's.
  • In Dubai you might see a shawerma restaurant next to a Lebanese restaurant, both with Arabic signs. In London last night I saw a shawerma place next to a Lebanese place, both with Arabic signs, but with a wine shop between them. That you don't see in Dubai.
  • Right now it's 34°C in Dubai, 4°C in London, and 14°C in Chicago. Good thing I packed for two out of three climates.

I am now off to explore this area of London, once I work out what day, time, and month it is.

Ante-pre-wrap (Dubai residency day 8)

The second CCMBA residency ended officially about an hour ago, so all that remains is the drinking. And the packing. And the flying to London and thence Chicago, and not having a functioning laptop for either flight.

One last photo for today, then on to other (if not better) things. I mentioned the Burj Dubai earlier, with factual comparisons to other tall buildings. I neglected to mention that it simply doesn't seem that tall, because it tapers to such a thin profile.

Last night, on the way to the desert dinner, I finally saw it from a perspective that convinced me, yes, it's really bloody tall:

Pity it hasn't opened yet. I might have gone up to see the view.

Placeholder (Dubai residency day 7)

The good news: our professor extended the deadline for our Cultural Disconnect paper until tomorrow. The bad news: tomorrow at 6am. This is almost a distinction without difference, some of us muttered, and it means that I will probably submit the paper at 12:05 instead of 11:55.

While I'm doing that, you can see more photos. First, our hotel and its sister building:

Another photo of the Dubai Creek:

And the view out my hotel window, of the Dubai International Finance Center (also known as "the Gate"):

More tomorrow, in the brief moment between the end of classes and the start of the party.

Bur Dubai (Dubai residency day 6)

Mostly photos today, because I have an economics assignment due before I can get some desperately-needed sleep.

Today we did our Culture Dash (see the entry about the deliverable) through some of the same Dubai streets I walked just yesterday. Some highlights: first, Dubai Creek, with an abra (commuter flatboat) in the foreground and an Airbus 330 taking off in the background:

The textile souk in the old Bur Dubai neighborhood:

And last one tonight, a minaret during the evening call to prayer:

More tomorrow, or possibly Saturday given how much we have to do before then.

Finding the real Dubai

After a two-hour walk in the 34°C heat, I actually feel much better. (People who know me can feel free to express surprise and alarm.)

As I mentioned yesterday, spending too much time in a hotel depresses the life out of me. When will I ever again visit Dubai? Probably never. Since the hotel has gone to great lengths to make itself indistinguishable from any other similar hotel in the world, I fled the official corporate tours and hopped the Dubai Metro for Deira, the old part of the city.

Sadly for my scrap-book, and despite having my good camera, I spent nearly the whole time experiencing a place unlike any I'd ever seen rather than photographing it. The best part: a delicious one-dirham loaf of flat bread I bought from a "bakery" that consisted of a guy sitting cross-legged next to a small oven in a shop that couldn't have been two meters on each side. One dirham.

Second best part: hearing about 40 muezzins simultaneously call the faithful to the Asr prayer around 15:20 local time.

I did get some photos; here are two:

And I found that Dubai has lots of very small, completely fearless cats:

In all, despite sweating through every thread of clothing I wore, and despite feeling completely taken in one bit of bargaining I did (but not in the other, when I was only slightly robbed), I think I spent the afternoon perfectly. I feel much better than I did this morning, and I'll feel even more human in 15 minutes when I get out of the shower....

Disconnected from the culture

Some people might enjoy a week in a five-star hotel where the weather is warm and the beaches are only 10 minutes away. I might, too, if I had time to leave the hotel.

Each residency, we have to write a "cultural disconnect" blog post describing an incident within the local culture that resulted from a disconnect between the cultures. For example, in London a student wrote about making a joke in an elevator that caused his American classmates to laugh out loud but the English people nearby to flee. He compared his personal communication style to the typical English style and analyzed the interaction using cultural and interpersonal-assessment tools the course has taught us. It wasn't as dry a paper as my description makes it seem, and since the professor singled it out the top paper, it was worth reading.

Since the only Emiratis I've met in five days have been the public speakers Duke brought in, and since I've only actually gotten a chance to leave the hotel twice, I think today I may skip the official corporate visit to Nakheel and instead go into the Deira neighborhood, where I hope to find people who actually live in Dubai.

I have a lot of impressions already of the city, which will take me a couple of weeks to fully process, but none of these thoughts have any data about living in Dubai supporting them.

They grow 'em tall here

Dubai has tall buildings. Many of them. Like our hotel, the Jumeirah Emirates Towers:

The 51-story hotel is 309 m tall, about the height of the Chrysler Building.

But that's not the tallest building here. No, from my hotel window I can see this:

That's the Burj Dubai, which at 818 m is almost double the height of Sears Willis Tower back home. Here's a comparison (from Wikipedia):

I'm working on an essay (not explicitly for the CCMBA) about Dubai's growth, including its monumental projects like the Burj, and what that may say about its future. Later though; right now I'm exhausted.

Catching up on photos

Now that I have a functioning monitor once again, I can post a few photos.

Despite American's mess-up with my seat assignments, a lovely British Airways flight attendant found an empty upper-deck window seat, so I did, in fact, get to have a total aviation-nerd-heaven trip:

P.O.V. shot:

A couple of things: first, the text on the screen is in Arabic, which makes sense if you're flying to Dubai. Second, the screen shows the plane has just gone over Italy's big toe. We had great views of the Alps and the Italian peninsula on the way down. (More on our route in a moment.) Third, the seat faces backwards, which may not be at all obvious from the photograph. Finally, I didn't realize that the upper deck curves too much to get really close to the window. So while I'm awfully happy to have sat up there, I'll probably not sit up there again unless it's an overnight flight.

About the route. Does this look odd to anyone else?

Compare with the great circle path that I expected:

I understand not wanting to fly over Iran, but then again, why not? British Airways flies London to Tehran, so I'm sure the overflight isn't a problem. It also looks like we skirted around Iraq as well, which, again, is not unfriendly (officially) to Britain. Anyone have an answer? If I'm able I'll get a shot of the return trip for comparison.

More later, with photographs of the world's tallest building.